Accommodation is generally the largest expense of a trip. However, it is possible to reduce the costs by finding other options to reduce expenses and stick to your budget, with the opportunity to practice new languages, to learn about other cultures and unprecedented exchange experiences.
Under this premise, Worldpackers connects travelers with hostels and inns that give accommodation in exchange for daily tasks. These tasks are varied and can range from receiving reception, cleaning, administrative work, bartender or cook. You can even teach language classes to work as a guide or actual fieldwork. It all depends on the location of the hostel, the services you need to cover and the studies of traveler skills. You have to pay a small fee ($15- $50 USD), which is still nothing compared to booking a hotel and paying for meals.
Some skills you can exchange with your hosts:
- English conversation every afternoon: Teaching English to your host, the workers or the people around. It is a great way to connect, see new places and become a vital element of a hostel or company.
- Collaborate with a community: Are you traveling within a village or small community? You can explore the surroundings and add value to the company, teaching languages or sharing your culture in the social center.
- Get help for your personal project: learn photography, create a website or position your business on the internet. Many Worldpackers users are also digital nomads looking for new projects and experiences.
- What else do you want to learn/Teach/Share? There are thousands of possibilities, choose a project or interest that you would like to learn and include it in your profile.
How did Worldpackers begin?
Worldpackers began in 2014, like the dream of two visionaries who created in the collaborative tourism and bet by the transforming power of the trips. At the beginning, Worldpackers only had 100 hostels. It currently has more than 1,000 establishments, of different levels, distributions in 94 countries and more than 30,000 users. As an innovative project, it has won prizes dedicated to young entrepreneurs and inspiring ideas.
My Worldpackers experience
You know I’m always looking for the cheapest ways to travel, and I rather buy some new local clothes (especially in India, where clothing is FABULOUS), than spend money on a hotel where basically all you do is sleep – at least that is what I do, because I am WAY too busy exploring everything outside. Surfing the web , I found Worldpackers by complete coincidence and was completely absorbed! I could ACTUALLY help out a company while enjoying myself anywhere in the world. I had some of my hosts booked already for my trip to India, but I was missing the fabulous Jaisalmer.
Browsing through the site I found Heera Court Hotel, which looked beautiful in pictures, and I offered my Social Media skills in exchange for 10 days of accommodation. The host and owner, Devilal was quick to respond and I was very excited. I did all this before I even landed in India, so it was a long awaited visit.
- The deal: Accommodation and 1 meal a day for 10 days in exchange for creating social media content and helping out with the website. I must say, every hotel is different, so it is recommended you speak with the host and get everything set before you arrive.
When I finally arrived… I was not disappointed.
My experience in Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer is an AMAZING town! If you are in for deserts, history and incredible experiences, this is for you.
To get there it is best to take a train from Jodhpur, Jaipur or Delhi.
But oh, how hot it is! As I lay in the sun I fry myself in my own sweat! Yes, Jaisalmer is in the middle of the Rajasthani desert and that … shows. The heat is different from the rest of the Rajasthan, it burns everything that is kindled like a laser gun.
It has an impressive fortress containing palaces and several ornate Jain temples, as well as hosting much of its population.
Many of the houses and many of its temples are sculpted delicately and elegantly. The truth is that it seems a city out of a story, full of alleys, palaces and havelis.
The city is situated in the heart of the Thar desert, at a height of 229 meters, and has a population of about 80,000 people. And it is very close to the border with Pakistan. You will surely find it a little hard to communicate at first because although people do speak Hindi and a little English, the leading language in the area is Marwadi.
It rises on a hill and the sensation that you have when seeing it is the one to contemplate a sand castle that begins to collapse. Unfortunately, it is exactly what is happening. Water is the main problem of this fort, not because of its scarcity, but because of the number of houses and therefore water pipes that have been built inside and have begun to weaken its foundations.
What’s there to do?
The fort is, along with the camel treks to the Thar desert, the strong point of Jaisalmer. It is obligatory to get lost in the alleyways full of havelis, an try the local delicacies from Rajasthan, that are INCREDIBLY delicious.
Jaisalmer has become a major tourist destination in the sleepy desert city. It is famous for its yellow sandstone forts and golden sand dunes. You will find a series of magnificent palaces and old havelis scattered throughout the city. Explore the rich culture and heritage of Jaisalmer! It is the perfect place if you want to discover the colors of Rajasthan. Jaisalmer Fort, Jain temples, Salim ji ki haveli and Nathmal ji ki haveli are some of the most famous tourist attractions in Jaisalmer.
Another essential visit inside the fort is the Palace of the Maharaja, they truly lived the high life! To find out more, take an audio guide in your language (it is included in the entry fee).
What else is especially noteworthy?
Tourists often enjoy visits to the Gadi Sagar (Gadsisar Lake), which is surrounded by a number of beautiful temples, shrines and havelis “large residences of India. However, it is the very popular camel safaris in Jaisalmer that have become so famous. The city offers camel rides to visitors on an unforgettable stroll in the desert, with some packages, including food and overnight camping, which is recommended, especially if you are going in groups of backpackers.
Inside the Jaisalmer Fort, it is interesting to see the interconnection of the seven Jain temples, in fact they are a must see at any cost.
The Chandraprabhu Temple is the first of these structures to be found and really set the tone for your visit. It offers breathtaking displays of traditional Indian architecture and an endless lace of very detailed stone sculptures on its interior walls. The Temple of Parasnath, is also well known in Jaisalmer. Because of its large entrance door and elaborate painted ceiling designs, it’s worthy.
When it comes to museums, Jaisalmer has them and in quantities, these reflect the history and culture with samples of interest. The Cultural Center and the Desert Museum is one of the best and resides next to the Sagar Gadi.
Also nearby is the very popular Folklore Museum, where there is a wealth of information regarding Rajasthan’s rich indigenous heritage. It has historical displays such as camel decorations and even a number of opium bottles.
Finding the way in central Jaisalmer and its city walls is quite simple. It is also close to getting to some of the neighboring attractions outside of the city.
Overnight at the desert
I’m a big “outdoorsy” person, and I love being out in nature. Of course after the camel ride, I wanted to spend the night out in the desert, and the amazing people I met in Jaisalmer did so too.
After reaching our location, we set our blankets – no matress, nothing… pure sand – and I discovered our companions, the dung beetles. I was so in love! (For the ones that get squeamish about insects, don’t worry… They don’t really mess with you.)
We had desert food, a real Rajasthani thali (plate with several different dishes) and amazing company. I am not kidding… It is a life-changing experience! And once the lights fade out, the stars-infested sky will make you smile. It’s the greatness of India that will keep you hypnotized!
Do not forget to visit Badha Bagh at sunset. It is really beautiful, amazing and breathtaking. There is enough room to take GREAT panoramic shots of the entire city because it is high up a hill. Yet, it is also incredibly hot and breezy, so take comfortable clothes.
In conclusion, you will find Jaisalmer to be one of the best destinations in India. It is relaxing, small, has that “provincial life” feel, and it is evenly culturally-complete.
Make sure to pack heat resistant and sand resistant clothes, as well as camera-cleaning gear. My camera got messed up in the sand 🙁
I must also advise for you to be extra careful with your belongings, especially around the desert. In a second, anything can vanish in the sand. For the same reason, make sure you have sunglasses, insect repellend and a light jacket. It often gets cool and windy at night.
If you need any extra information of this city, make sure to comment below and I will help you contact locals wherever you are!